Interview: Choose to Challenge on International Women's Day
With a pedigree of nearly 20 years’ working in the field of tax and accounting, Claire Carter joined Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK in 2015 as Managing Director, where she was responsible for the strategic direction and operational excellence of the UK business. In January 2021, she became Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting Europe.
On International Women's Day, Business Chief EMEA talks to Claire Carter about gender equality in top decision-making positions, the challenges of leadership as a female, and the importance of being both authentic and resilient in your journey to the top.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. As you progress in your new role, how are you choosing to challenge gender equality at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting across Europe?
As European Managing Director, I'm well positioned to discuss this with conviction because of the diversity reflected in our structure globally. Our global CEO, Nancy McKinstry, has led Wolters Kluwer since 2003, while our global CEO for Tax & Accounting, Karen Abramson, has led the global division since 2013. They are both great role models for all women in business in both the tax and accounting and technology industries. Under their leadership, just under 50% of our workforce is female, and that’s a key statistic in demonstrating how committed we are to diversity within the organisation.
However, it doesn’t make us complacent. We’ve set the bar very high, and we choose to challenge ourselves to continually do more for equality and diversity within our organisation, including hiring more women in technical and management roles. To us, the #ChooseToChallenge theme also means actively identifying gender bias and inequality and choosing to seek out and celebrate the achievements of women in our business.
In Europe, is there an under-representation of females in top decision-making positions. What are the biggest barriers?
I think it’s important to recognise that there are firms out there, both large and small, that are demonstrably paving the way for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion across the tax and accounting industry. They do exist, and we’re pleased to see this reflected in our customer base.
Companies should look not just at talent acquisition, but at creating active talent management programmes to nurture, retain and promote women to get them to partnership level.
Diversity needs to become an organic part of growth: it’s not just about making a decision to have a 50% diverse team. It’s really centred upon a change in education, in how we bring up children from an equality perspective. In some of our markets, starting to build relationships with academic communities to offer mentoring for young women who are considering their career options. It’s encouraging to see so many of them choosing to study STEM subjects, and that we are seeing more female candidates across engineering and data science.
How is Wolters Kluwer TAA encouraging women to pursue leadership roles, and to aspire for the C-suite?
We run active talent programmes that help us to identify talent and give people customised development opportunities. This includes mentorship programmes to nurture talent, regardless of gender. In fact, I have had two mentors in my previous roles both as European Managing Director of Cloud Strategy and Organisations, and during my time as Managing Director in the UK. Today, I’m the Managing Director of Wolters Kluwer, Tax & Accounting Europe which is a dream job, however, it’s very much a result of the opportunity for development I had with mentors that coached me through my career progression.
Talent management is embedded in our culture and we recognise, nurture and monitor equal opportunities on an active basis. I’d like to think we’ve already broken down the barriers women may have traditionally experienced in becoming leaders in either tax and accounting or IT, and I am proud to work alongside so many long-standing female leaders and members of the C-suite.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve overcome on your journey to becoming Managing Director of Tax & Accounting, Europe?
Like anyone, I have areas that require development, and I've always embraced people giving me feedback about what my development areas are. If you want to be able to make decisions based on fact and based evidence, you need to listen to people.
The two years I spent as European Managing Director of Cloud Strategy and Organisations helped me to gain further cloud knowledge and experience, and it was an amazing opportunity to learn alongside established mentors and other cloud experts throughout the business.
To me, it’s very important to recognise that regardless of where I am in my career, I need to be constantly learning if I want to keep progressing. I embrace an open mindset which has allowed me to look at challenges as opportunities, and to address them head on in order to become better in terms of my knowledge, my professional skills and overall, as a leader.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve got for young women who want to aim for leadership roles?
The importance for women aiming for leadership roles to seek out P&L experience, this will be a real benefit as you progress along your career path. Secondly, to always be authentic: use your emotional intelligence as your greatest skill to navigate around problems.
And more importantly, you have to be resilient – probably a bit more than your male counterpart. Never tolerate anyone saying that you can't do something. The word ‘can’t’ is a real dislike of mine. It’s all about mindset, and the ability to make a difference and embrace your own desire to learn. When the question is ‘how do we overcome it?’ the answer has nothing to do with gender, and everything do with applying that positive, transformational mindset towards achieving a solution.
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